Washington Legal Roundup – Division I
Daniel Simms was convicted of first degree robbery and two counts of assault. The court doubled the length of Mr. Simms’ sentence based on RCW 98.94A.533(3)(d) (the firearm sentencing enhancement) and the fact that he had previously been convicted of second degree assault with a firearm enhancement.
Mr. Simms argued on appeal that only the jury could determine whether the State had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he had been previously convicted of a firearm crime. This requirement arises out of the Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004) line of cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court had held that for purposes of the Sixth Amendment, the jury alone was charged with determining whether all facts that could increase a defendant’s sentence had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 584 (2000), the U.S. Supreme Court had held that the fact of a prior conviction was not one of the facts that needed to be proven to the trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mr. Simms also argued that the double jeopardy prohibition in the state and federal constitutions made it unconstitutional to increase his sentence on the basis of a prior conviction. The Court of Appeals said no go to this argument as well, stating that because the legislative intent was not to punish Mr. Simms for the prior conviction but to enhance the penalty for the current conduct involving a firearm, double jeopardy was not violated.
Mr. Simms had insisted upon representing himself and attempted to do so again on appeal. The Court of Appeals determined that he did not have a right to fire his appellate counsel and present oral argument himself.
Note to pro se criminal defendants: The maxim that a person who serves as his own attorney has a fool for a client generally holds true. There should be another maxim in this setting: If you’ve got Greg Link and the Washington Appellate Project as your appellate counsel, count your blessings.